Journeys through the Netherworlds

It has belatedly occurred to me that there are a few other works I should mention in connection with the world tree and axial mountain archetypes and germanic mythology.

First up: The Divine Comedy by Dante. Written back in the fourteenth century, The Divine Comedy describes Dante’s journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso), guided first by the Roman epic poet Virgil and then by his beloved Beatrice. The mountain of Purgatorio forms a central motif connecting the upper and lower realms. Whilst quite problematic from a biblical perspective (purgatory is a theological construct that has no real foundation in the Bible) it is well worth noting from a phenomenological perspective as there are some obvious parallels here to the Mount Meru myth of Buddhist and Hindu cosmology. After climbing the mountain of Purgatorio Dante enters paradise where he experiences ecstatic visions he confesses he is unable to describe.

Secondly, The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. Since Andii mentioned C S Lewis I should also mention his mate J R R Tolkien, writer of Lord of the Rings and the man credited with introducing Lewis to Christianity. Both of these guys liked to explore spiritual themes using mythological devices and Tolkien in particular drew heavily from Germanic mythology. What is less well known however is that they also had an interest in Jungian archetypes.

In Tolkien: Archetype and Word, Patrick Grant notes: “The Lord of the Rings can be read, with surprising consistency, as an interior journey through the psyche as Jung describes it.” In particular, I draw attention to the character of Golem in Lord of the Rings who in many ways operates as the shadow of Frodo.

So a thread I am interested in exploring is in whether in some sense these works may be viewed as literary meditations on the interior journey and how in turn this may also enrich the visionary pathworkings of open minded spiritual seekers.

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